|NMU||WASHINGTON, D.C.||Freedom of Information|
Clinton records on pardon applications denied
- A federal district judge in Washington, D.C., denied a public interest group’s request for pardon records from the Clinton administration.
April 2, 2003 — Documents concerning pardon applications considered or granted by former President Bill Clinton are privileged presidential communications, Judge Gladys Kessler of the federal district court in Washington, D.C., ruled March 28, denying Washington, D.C.,-based Judicial Watch records it sought under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Judge Kessler said that “as strong a supporter as the Court is of FOIA’s liberal disclosure of government documents and as great as the public interest in disclosure of the documents requested . . . may be, the case law concerning the ability of the government to withhold certain documents under the presidential communications privilege is clear.”
Judicial Watch filed its FOI request with the Department of Justice after Clinton had left office.
The department withheld more than 4,000 pages because they related to the President’s “expressly delegated” constitutional authority to grant reprieves and pardons. It also withheld 524 pages to “protect the privacy” of the pardon applicants, claiming that the identities and personal histories of the applicants “do not bear in any way” on how the department carries out its duties.
The judge rejected Judicial Watch’s argument that the privilege should not apply to a President who is no longer in office, recognizing that the Bush administration has supported the privilege.
She also rejected the group’s privacy argument, deferring to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Department of Justice v. Reporters Committee that even rap sheets can be withheld for privacy reasons. She said that even if information concerns possible felons, its disclosure can reasonably be interpreted as unwarranted invasions of personal privacy. However, she referred to the protection of “nonpublic” personal information regarding the applicants, the crimes they committed and their lives before and after their convictions.
Judge Kessler allowed a “limited extension” of the legal protection for the protection of a documents prepared by Justice department personnel.
(Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice; Attorney for Judicial Watch: Larry Klayman, Washington, D.C.) — RD
© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press